Filthy Beautiful Forever(9)

By: Kendall Ryan

I snatched it away from him, trying to hide it a little too late. We might have been best friends, but he was still going through his all girls have cooties phase. Something I was normally immune from, but still, there were certain things I kept to myself. Or tried to. “I am,” I proclaimed in the strongest voice I could. Still, I felt myself blush.

Collins wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow in that way that made a small crinkle over one eyebrow. “No way.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not today. But one day.”

“I’ll never get married. That’s gross.” His eyes widened.

“Yes you will. Everyone does.”

“Okay, fine. But if I have to marry someone, I'm gonna marry you.” He poked me in the arm with his finger hard enough that it hurt, just a little.

It wasn’t a romantic candle lit dinner with champagne and get down on one knee type of proposal, but at the age of ten, it was all I needed. And I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything.

In my bedroom that day, we deliberated and it evolved into a promise that if neither of us had married by the time we were thirty, we’d married each other.

Pinky swear.

I’d turned thirty a few months ago, and the promise had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since. But did that mean I actually needed to spend the last few dollars I had running across country to see Collins? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the more I analyze it now, the sillier the whole thing seems.

I pull out my phone and dial my friend Leila’s number.

“Are you really there? I mean actually in LA,” she says by way of greeting.

“Yes,” I say.

“I can’t believe you went, girl. You are crazy,” she shrieks in her usual over excited tone.

“You’re the one who said I should go,” I say.

“So? We were drinking. Besides, I was 100% kidding and you know that.” I think back to when we met for drinks just after I was fired. We were talking over my options, or lack of options. I was about to get evicted for non-payment of rent. She offered me her sofa in the tiny one bedroom she shared with her husband and newborn. No thank you. Then suggested my parents’ place, which was even smaller than hers. The next thing out of her mouth was a joke, “Maybe you should move to LA and marry that Collins guy.”

She laughed. But I didn’t. The mention of my childhood love made my cheeks warm and my belly churn. It seemed like an option, one as good as any other. Maybe even better. Just the thought of seeing Collins again had been so enticing.

But now that I was really here, I was questioning myself. “I know,” I say. “I shouldn’t have come. He’s got a live-in girlfriend, and she’s super beautiful.”

“Mia, I’m sorry. But what did you expect?”

My inner romantic knows exactly what I expected. He was going to open the door, recognize me at once, and we would be married the next day. “I know. It was childish of me to come.”

“But you’re in his house? Does that mean he invited you to stay?”

“For a few days.”

“And he has a guest bedroom, or a couch or whatever?”

I laugh. “It’s more like a guest suite. He’s doing really well. His house is amazing, Leila. He’s got so many guest rooms they name them. I’m in the Purple Room.”

“Well, sounds like you might be okay there for a few days then. But remember—my couch is always open if you need a place to crash. And if things get weird there, I will find a way to loan you the money for a ticket home.”

I know she means it. Leila’s a great friend, but there’s no way I’ll let them cut into their small savings to fly me home. Not with their newborn and all. “No you won’t. I’ll be fine,” I say.

“The offer is there.”

“Thank you.”

We get off the phone, and I chew on my lip as I mull over my situation. When I told Collins what I was doing here, he seemed kind of stunned. Not that we ever really talked about it since we were interrupted by Tatianna’s arrival.

There’s a knock at the door. “Mia, are you hungry?” Collins says through the door.

I pull it open. He and Tatianna are there.

“Sure.” And I absolutely am. The four-hour time difference means my stomach wants dinner yesterday.

“Dinner’s ready. I asked the cook to set an extra plate for you.” He waves for me to follow them and I do. Collins and Tatianna walk next to each other, but manage to avoid physical contact and don’t say a word as we make our way down to the dining room. I wonder if this is how they normally are together, or if I’ve caused this icy tension. The Collins I knew loved to talk. Some days we’d spend the entire day taking turns telling stories. Sure there were times we’d been quiet, but usually it was because we were reading, or watching something, or even just tired.

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